Desperate for more Persona after falling head-over-heels with P5, Jolly travels back 10+ years to get his fix.
Where things are the same:I’m standing in a dungeon, and one of my teammates is knocked on his ass from the weird-ass monster in front of me. Fire. Dammit. But suddenly, my teammate who navigates informs me of the monster’s weakness. Ice. Hell yea.
I unleash a quick bufu. I miss, but another of my teammates follows with a bufura and knocks said monster on its ass. She calls for an all-out attack, and we oblige by swooping in and wiping the creature from the face of the planet.
If this all sounds very familiar, it is. It was surprising just how quickly I eased into the ebb and flow of combat in P3. The menu might’ve been a bit different looking, but all the basics of the combat I fell in love with in Persona 5 were right there in Persona 3.
Likewise, the daily life simulator aspect almost felt like greeting an old friend. Sure, there were only three stats to manage instead of five, and they required six ranks for max rather than five, but for the most part it felt the same as P5. There were friends to go hang with, restaurants to eat at, shrines to visit. It was one of the easiest times going from a newer entry to an older one I’ve ever had.
As an aside, while the music is a much different style from P5s ( P3s soundtrack felt like it had more of an early 90s funk beat to it compared to the modern dance stylings of Persona 5), it was still catchy as all hell.
Where things differ: Obviously, the characters are different than the protags of P5, though they share many similarities. But the plot itself is a far different tale than that of the Phantom Thieves. I found myself instantly intrigued by the strange phenomenon of the P3's Dark Hour, an event that leaves most normal people encased in a coffin and in which shadows attack the unlucky few who aren’t.
One of the most noticeable differences though is in how the crew go about summoning their Persona. I thought the weird mask-ripping ritual of P5 was rough, but P3's ensemble must use a device known as an Evoker, strangely designed to look exactly like a pistol, put it against their temple, and pull the trigger. It’s a very odd choice by the developers, and was more than a little off putting at first. The little flinching animation each character does after pulling the trigger doesn’t help.
The only other major difference I really feel must be mentioned comes from the daily life sim stuff. Building social links seems much harder here, and it’s due to one thing: Every one of the girls who you bond with eventually falls in love with you and wants a relationship. And if you try to hang out with one while in the middle of building with another, the scorned girl’s relationship bond with you will actually reverse until you repair it. The only exception is if you max your bond out with a girl, she’ll no longer care if you spend time with another. I really missed the ability to be able to form a relationship with one girl and friendships with the others from P5.
There’s other smaller differences, mostly in the quality-of-life department. In Persona 5, traveling to the weapon shop after school was as simple as bringing up your map, clicking the weapon shop ( granted if you’ve been there once already) and boom you’re there. In Persona 3, traveling to the weapon shop after class required me to walk out of the room, load into the hall, then down to the lobby, the out the courtyard, then clicking the right area on the map, loading into there, and then finally into the shop itself.
Overall take: Still, minor quibbles aside, I’ve definitely been getting my fix for what Persona 5 gave me through Persona 3 ( For those wondering, I played the version available on the PS3's digital store). I’m right at where I believe the story is about to end. I’m hoping to go take down this final boss, wrap up things with this wonderful cast of characters, and move onto Persona 4.
But I’m definitely coming back. If you’re a new Persona player introduced to the series by P5 like I was and you’re wondering if you should play the older entries, I highly recommend Persona 3. You’ll feel right at home.
The whole gun things is still weird as hell though.